Thursday, October 1, 2009


musing on being (un)(very)afraid

The escape route I dug via this blog wielded my friendships like a shield against leeriness. Because I doubted everything about being in Honduras: the pretext of working as a competent researcher for 10 months under the guise of an illustrious fellowship, seeking answers through academia to address issues of “poverty management”, abandoning an identity as a working farmer, struggling in a language that effectively obliges me mute, forgoing green vegetables, I reached out to ensure that a judging audience also recognized these as future personal failings. The empty space speaks equally to the latent conversations not recorded in the space I reserved for full promulgation. Thus a full confession for an earlier attempted confession: I did not trust myself to be a productive member of pueblo Honduras. This is why: 

I was afraid that positivist research (of which my entry was sure and expected, even offering a growth opportunity) serves the career of scholars to a greater degree than those being studied. In fact, the last three words of that last sentence follow me everywhere.

I was afraid that my role as an American contributed to a cycle of inequality being repeated for the *inth time. Acting out the familiar story of self-examination (under the gentle care of women cooking on wood stoves, planting corn, children singing my name from school classrooms) and then retreating with stories of “real poverty and human suffering” to relay in grad school interviews. 

I was afraid that the values which ground me: solidarity, community organizing, and liberation theology would become significantly obsolete and symbolic of an empty identity if I chose the path of testing a hypothesis.

I was afraid that people who shared their stories in the most giving of ways would became mere postulations sized into a discussion section.

I was afraid respected friends and family would ask: so, what does your data say? – data, what’s data – I would respond.

All of these fears are breathing partial truths thanks to my work for and against them, consciously and blindly. Brevity now is inappropriate, but the concluding remarks to the perilous predictions: yep, “that” may happen on some level. Your job is to not be idle and escape via (too many) Harry Potter movies and/or Ugly Betty episodes. Be afraid, but own it, avoid thinking too much and make constructive lists.

Painfully obvious is that any blog entry I write (ever) will always be the muse of a new confession and a measurement of failure against shifting parameters – not too awful for public display, but a good dose of shame.

Here’s the rub: I predicted the fate of this blog. The word Buoyant impressed urgency on my soul after reading a Rumi poem on the stoop of an urban house in crowded Tegucigalpa: let the guilt go, feel the buoyancy all around you.

How does one do that letting go without becoming complacent? It’s my envisioned fate on twitter and facebook, scared they offer mediums to pluck a hole out my self-contained cosmic antsy-ness rather than honest, public admission.

The second rub: I don’t communicate well via these mediums because I don’t give myself the satisfaction of the confession and subsequent relief of being revealed as someone addicted to riding buses and not fit to give surveys.  Beware, I react poorly to hearing : : it’s ok, you’re too hard on yourself, we all have limits : : Those paths are marked on this map of full disclosure and self-deprecation, but they provoke (in me) a deep retreat into blankness, nothingness.

If I promise to re-dedicate myself to telling the story of what I do, what occupies my thoughts and makes me flutter with joy/sorrow/gratefulness with hopes that you’ll share your stories and we can think deeply about our choices and subsequent actions, such a promise must be asterisked as *aspiring.* My public cleansing may be personally restorative, deeply disturbing for the reader, and a bit too much in general. But I’m hoping it’s that step forward that I keep witnessing in others and admire.

I’ll be in Honduras until the new year, maybe longer. A member of this community, status granted as “permanent visitor who rides lots of buses, can work hard in the campo.” Thank you pueblo HondureƱo for the space to claim this, my life.